When you use the word “intimacy,” how do you define it? Does your mind immediately jump to sex? A lot of people define intimacy that way—as closeness that’s purely physical. But sex can actually be one of the least intimate things we do. We can easily hide our true selves in favor of a strictly physical experience.
Obviously, the best sex includes an emotional connection, but true intimacy involves so much more than just taking off our clothes. It includes emotional closeness, sharing, collaborative insight, revelation, and authenticity. Most importantly, it requires honesty and vulnerability.
Most of us say we want more closeness in our relationships, but we don’t know how to make that happen. The truth is that we usually stand in our own way. I’m a case in point. For most of my marriage, I was the opposite of intimate. Instead, I kept myself hidden. I kept the secret about my affair, and I hid my true feelings from my husband. I also hid my feelings and relationship issues from everyone else I knew. People thought they knew me, but I only allowed them to know the version of me I chose to show.
Why? Deep shame. The early programming that told me I had to be perfect meant I couldn’t let anyone see the chinks in my armor. Unconsciously, I believed it would be the end of me if anybody knew the truth. I didn’t just fear losing the love of the people close to me; I feared being rejected and shunned by the world at large.
Far too many relationships function on pretense. Each person determines what they think their partner wants, and they try to live up to that image in the hope of being loved. But neither person actually feels loved, because whatever love they receive is directed toward the false image, not the true self.
Our greatest longing is to be loved for who we really are. But how can we feel loved if we hide who we are? It’s so easy to point the finger of blame at the other person and say, “You don’t get me!” But if we aren’t being honest and open, how can they possibly “get us”?
Intimacy is a practice. We have to make an effort. But like love, intimacy also has to start as an inside job. We can’t receive love or intimacy from someone else until we give it to ourselves. In other words, the amount of intimacy you’re able to have in a relationship is directly proportionate to how intimate you are with yourself.
So, are you ready to be intimate with yourself?
Fill in the blanks: A story I tell myself is___, the truth is___.